Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Steamed Buns with BBQ Filling

I love yum cha/dim sum (and have always heard the terms used fairly interchangeably). I love how the food arrives so fresh and piping hot at your tableside, where you can pick and cheese what you want to eat. My favorite is definately the steamed buns (bau) filled with barbeque pork . I have not had any sort of yum cha in some time and, in fact, have had great difficulty even finding a dim sum restaurant that I like, so it seemed as though my only altlernative was to try making these at home.
Before anyone tells me that these aren't traditional, something which is immediately apparent because my buns are gathered at the bottom and not the top, I already know. Frankly, I don't even think it is important that a dish be called "tratitional" at all; the taste is the most important part of any dish, whether traditional, original or inspired by something else. I used Maki's recipe, from i was really just very hungry, and she mentioned that these are the Japanese style of the traditional pork bun. They were absolutely fantastic. Not only was I surprised that I was able to steam them so successfully myself, they were some of the best buns I've had in a very long time. The dough was easy to make and a dream to handle. I used bleached all purpose flour to ensure that my buns were really white, but unbleached will give you the same textural results. They were light, soft and fluffy, with a nice bit of chew. You can see in the photo above that I left one unfilled to give you a better idea of the crumb/texture of the bun. This project also gave me a chance to use my bamboo steamer, which has been sitting unused in my cupboard for some time now, too.
For the filling, I made two types: one with pork and one using a vegetarian meat. Instead of going to all the trouble of making some sort of barbeque, I just used a favorite bottled sauce with a few additions and stirred it into my meat. Whether you do or do not like bottled sauce, you certainly can't beat it for convenience. I am looking forward to trying these buns with other fillings, like chicken and perhaps a sweet custard. The leftovers make a great lunch. You can either freeze them or store them in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a day. Leave the plastic on and "steam" them for a 30-60 seconds in the microwave for a quick meal.

Steamed Buns with BBQ filling
(from i was really just very hungry)
1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110F)
3 cups ap flour (bleached, if possible)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tbsp shortening, melted
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl, combine yeast and 1/4 cup water. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Add 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, water, milk, shortening and baking powder and stir well. Add remaining flour gradually until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a large ziploc bag to rise (or a bowl, covered with plastic wrap) until doubled, 45-60 minutes.
Cut 12 3-inch squares of parchment paper.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten. Divide dough into 12 pieces (I made 15 because my steamer is on the small side). Keeping the unused pieces of dough covered with a dish towel, flatten a piece of dough into a circle with the center slightly thicker than the outside (approx 4-5 inches in diameter, but you'll get the hang of it quickly without measuring). Place about 2 tbsp filling in the center of the dough and close the dough around the filling (recipe below), pinching to seal. Place seam-side down on a square of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all dough. Cover baking sheet with a clean dish towel and let rise for 15-20 minutes.
Steam buns for 18-20 minutes, in batches if necessary, until springy to the touch. Serve hot.
Makes 12 buns.

BBQ Filling
1 1/2 cups shredded pork (or chicken)
1/2 cup bbq sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.